Worth Matravers

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It is possible that my African-American DNA comes from a woman who was born about 1832 at Worth Matravers; one or both of her parents could have been the source of that DNA. In the 1841 Census, her mother had four illegitimate daughters and was shown as 'of independent means'; so, one of her ancestors could have been the child of a male slave owner and a female slave? Many such children were set up for life in the country, away from the prying eyes of friends and family, both in the West Indies and especially in England. It is also possible that her father could have been an African-American sailor, or someone working at the stone quarries? Her mother's father was listed as a stone mason, but official records often hide the real truth; surely a stone mason's daughter is unlikely to have been of 'independent' means, unless he owned a quarry? Most of my other lines have many generations in England and are somewhat less likely to be the source of this DNA; maybe further DNA tests of my close relatives will help reduce the likelihood of it being any other lines. [see My DNA]


Worth Matravers, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, looking east towards the centre of the village and the duck pond, which is hidden behind the cottage in the centre, from near the church. (see below for a view from the opposite direction)

Worth Matravers, Dorset, is not far from the sea and the coastal trade at Weymouth, Swanage and Poole Harbour. Also, it is not many miles across land from Bristol and the slave trade. During the 18th Century, some country houses had African-American servants and even slaves in the area; once freed, their descendants could well have settled in Worth Matravers, Dorset.


The village pond at Worth Matravers, Dorset, from the north east, showing some of the cottages in the centre of the village; the church spire can be seen at the top right.  (see above for a view from the opposite direction)


The centre of the village of Worth Matravers, Dorset, with its small green and duck pond


There were several cottages around the edges of Worth Matravers, Dorset, like Rose Cottage and Winspits Cottage


Renscombe Farm and The Old Coach Road, Worth Matravers, Dorset


800 year old St. Nicholas Church, Worth Matravers, Dorset

                                                                                photo by Chris Drakes, 2009

Inside St. Nicholas Church, Worth Matravers, Dorset

                                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes, 2009

For Transcipts of Dorset Parish Baptism, Marriage & Burial Registers, including Worth Matravers, see: opcdorset.org.


View of the village from the Hill, and nearby Winspit Cove, Worth Matravers, Dorset

                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes, 2009

The coast below Worth Matravers, Dorset

                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes, 2009


Chapman's Pool, near Worth Matravers, Dorset; the old boathouse (left building) to the far right of the picture, was originally a lifeboat station built in 1867, but closed in the 1880s.

                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes, 2009

800 year old St. Aldhelm's Chapel, near Worth Matravers, Dorset

                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes, 2009


Worth Matravers, Acton and Langton Matravers as they were in 1811.
Reproduced here by kind permission of: ©Cassini Publishing Ltd cassinimaps.com

These two villages, and the three hamlets between them, can be found on the following Ordnance Survey re-print map: Cassini Timeline Historical Map 1811 Map 195 Bournemouth & Purbeck. This is a brilliant series of old maps that are invaluable when studying family histories; so many modern roads just weren't there 100 years ago, sometimes much less, and this makes understanding transport and communication links almost impossible without using these old maps. Original versions are scarce, expensive and delicate; with Cassini re-prints you can always get another one if it gets damaged, or if you want to mark where different members of your family once lived.


The main employment for men and boys was working at the stone quarries that abounded in the area.

                                                                                                               photo by Chris Drakes, 2009

This area around Langton Matravers is nationally renowned for its stone quarries that once extracted a local limestone known as Purbeck Marble, this being used during the building of many cathedrals and public buildings as well as local housing. Whilst not an actual marble, it will take a marble-like polish and was used for decorative building work. Some of the quarries were in the fields near Worth Matravers and Langton Matravers, and some new ones have been opened up with special care being taken to protect the natural habitat of plants and animals once the stone has been extracted. There are several old cliff-face quarries along the nearby coast between Dancing Ledge and Winspit, but these are no longer being worked on and are potentially dangerous; some have been sealed to prevent entry, and one is a protected habitat for rare bats.

                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes, 2009

Winspit Quarries on the coast below Worth Matravers, Dorset


                                                                                                 photos by Chris Drakes, 2009

The south coast below Worth Matravers, Dorset; the lines on the hill top above the quarry are 'lynchets' and are an Iron Age & Medieval method of farming crops on steep hillsides, though the only cattle are farmed there today. The lynchet-covered hills either side of the Winspit valley are known as 'East Man' (pictured above) and 'West Man'.


Corfe Castle c1910

Corfe Castle is about 4 miles north of Worth Matravers; it was beseiged and raised during the English Civil War by Sir Walter Erle, who was a Parliamentarian. Charborough House had been previously burnt down by Royalist troops and he used a large oak beam, probably from the Keep of the Castle, and some pieces of the stonework there to re-build Charborough. The beam was used to support part of the main floor at Charborough House. After the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, reparation was sought by Sir Ralph Banks regarding these items, but the house would have had to be torn down to return them. One of Walter Erle's descendants married Henry Drax of Ellerton Abbey, and they became the direct ancestors of the Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax line who still own the Charborough Park Estate.


Various views of the ruined Corfe Castle in March 2009

photos by Chris Drakes, 2009

Edward the Martyr, King of Wessex, was murdered by his stepmother Elfrida at Corfe Castle, Dorset in 978AD. His remains were kept in the south aisle chapel at St. Marys Church, which is believed to be the burial place of the Anglo-Saxon kings. His remains were later removed to Shaftesbury by St. Dunstan and a procession of many monks, though the original receptacle for his body is believed to have remained at St. Marys.

                                                                                                 photo by Chris Drakes, 2009

John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax. In Corfe Castle Encyclopaedia by Rodney Legg, the entry about John Calcraft (1765-1831), the former Tory who became a Whig in the election immediately after the 1831 Reform Bill of 22 March 1831, reads, "Initially, "the ardent reformer of Wareham" had a great success against the local Tory establishment when he went on to take one of the two county of Dorset seats, against Henry Bankes, in the subsequent general election [May 1831]. A crowd of 12,000 were on the edge of a riot at the hustings in Poundbury Camp hill-fort, Dorchester, when Calcraft's Corfe Castle labourers joined with horsemen provided by John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Drax of Charborough Park to charge and rout the pro-Bankes mob."


If you have a general interest in the Corfe Castle area of the Isle of Purbeck, I can recommend Corfe Castle Encyclopaedia by Rodney Legg, published by Dorset Publishing, 2000. He has also written numerous other books about specific interests, including walking, wartime, shipwrecks, smugglers, ghosts, plant-life, quarrying, & etc., in the Isle of Purbeck.


Dorset Smugler's Pubs by Terry Townsend (2015) features the Square & Compass pub at Worth Matravers, Dorset. Terry has published a number of other books and, in early 2016, was researching another covering Dorset.